OBSERVATIONS FROM THE 2019 HBS ETA CONFERENCE
I had a chance to return to the HBS grounds a couple weeks ago to attend the HBS Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition conference; I learned quite a bit and wanted to share a few things with the community. Please feel free to add your perspective!
- The conference is very high return on your time and money--it was 1-day on a Sunday and thoughtfully organized
- The talent, investor, and operator pools are diverse and exceptional and I would not be surprised if they can't accommodate more people in the future. So go next time and reserve your spot early.
- Regardless of who you are, there is a huge amount of information and learning potential that is not available anywhere else
The longer version:
For searchers and prospective searchers
There are significant number of networking opportunities to discuss with other searchers, investors, and operators; the overall conference atmosphere makes it easy to approach and chat with people and virtually everyone was welcoming of new connections and ideas. Moreover, the sessions are very useful to current and aspiring searchers; sessions include sourcing and search strategies. Given that it is only a day, it is relatively budget friendly especially if you are a self-funded searcher. The drawback is that if you are solo, it is impossible to attend all the sessions effectively; you may wish to partner with someone to share notes afterwards for sessions that are happening simultaneously. From a learning perspective, there is just of ton of information and it is pretty critical to be aware of the techniques searchers are using to source deals, close, and transition effectively. Of particular note were the skills workshops in the afternoon tailored exclusively toward searchers.
The searchers themselves came from all walks of life including women, minorities, representing a multitude of countries, and age ranges--making for a truly diverse environment.
From a logistics standpoint, the conference was very easy to get to with just a short Uber ride from the airport. If I recall correctly, there is also plenty of daily parking available right on HBS campus with all buildings within 1 min walking distance of each other (with the option of walking through tunnels for those not wanting to brave the Boston cold). Lunch is provided as are refreshments and coffee.
Last but not least, there is also opportunity to find interns since there are a significant number of current students.
I met a variety of investors at the conference--some who have done search fund investing for decades and others who are just learning about the model. Regardless of the type of investor, there were people to meet and new things to learn about the process. I met at least one investor who was concerned about finding a pipeline for potential searchers to invest in; luckily the conference affords the opportunity to meet high quality current searchers (who need capital) and future searchers, many of whom are HBS students.
There were a large number of current or former operators at the conference, which was surprising to me. In hindsight, it makes sense since this a great venue to trade notes on what was effective in post-acquisition value creation. The panel on “CEO perspectives,” I thought, was a gold mine on very specific actions to take to increase EBITDA post-acq. It was replete with successful operators who were candid and direct about sharing their experiences. I would add that it is also valuable for searchers who are close to the finish line and need to think about how they can create additional value in the business after acquisition .
Overall, I plan on attending again next year. Wish you all a great Holiday season and New year.